By Heather Hahn
NS Mayport Environmental
Naval Station Mayport beaches are a great place to live and visit for both people and sea turtles which are an endangered species.
Turtle nesting takes place April 1st through Oct. 31st, and their safety depends on you. Hatchlings find their way to the sea by light clues. They instinctively crawl towards the brightest light and become disoriented if artificial lights are shining from behind. Artificial light from beachfront homes, streetlights and even flashlights can attract the hatchlings away from the safety of the water and lead them to their deaths.
Lights and people also disorientate female turtles coming ashore to nest. If one is sighted coming ashore, remain calm and quiet, don't use a light source and do not approach, as this will disturb her nesting.
How can you help? By simply keeping our beaches as dark and quiet as possible throughout the nesting season. Consider the following suggestions:
Close all curtains that face the beach at sunset.
Turn off all unnecessary lights and do not use flashlights without a red lens.
Avoid leaving large holes and castles on the beach area.
Reposition the source of any light fixture so it is not visible from the beach.
Use motion detectors on outside lights for security purposes.
Place timers on lights so they are off by 9 p.m.
All special functions conducted on Naval Station Mayport beach areas during nesting season must first be cleared through Environmental PWD.
All dogs on the beach must be on a leash at all times.
Never touch nesting females or emerging hatchlings. These actions are a violation of federal and state laws. Only permit holders are allowed to touch or move a sea turtle.
Never try to push a live sea turtle back into the water. If the turtle is out of the water and on the beach during the day contact Environmental PWD immediately.
Notify the Environmental Office if you find a live or dead sea turtle unless the turtle has a painted "X" on its shell indicating it has already been checked by the appropriate authority.
The turtles have been here for more than 150 million years and we want them to stay for years to come. So let's do our part to help protect them and ensure that they remain part of life in Florida.
For more information, or if you sight an unmarked nest, hatchling or stranded sea turtles, contact Mayport Environmental PWD Patrol immediately at 904-270-6730 or after hours at 904-509-6842.